The 2013 NFL draft is now behind us and the nine Pittsburgh Steelers draft picks will be present for rookie camp this coming weekend in Pittsburgh. Now that things have settled down, here is my look at what I expect this upcoming season for every member of the Steelers 2013 draft class.
Round 1 – OLB Jarvis Jones – At the very least, Jones should dress for every game and have a prominent role on special teams just like every first year linebacker that plays for the Steelers. As far as Jones seeing the field on the defensive side of the ball goes, that is all up to how fast he picks of the Steelers defense combined with how Jason Worilds plays ahead of him. Should Worilds finally live up to his potential, and both he and LaMarr Woodley stay healthy and productive, Jones might only wind up with right around 100 snaps of playing time in his rookie season. Of course if the two linebackers that are ahead of Jones get bitten by the injury bug again or Worilds gets off to a slow start, Jones very well could exceed the 500 snap mark on defense.
Round 2 – RB Le\’Veon Bell – The Steelers most certainly will not just hand Bell the starting job, he\’ll have to earn it in training camp. His ability to adapt his game to Steelers offense, combined with his ability to pick up the offense, will determine everything with him. The Steelers will be itching to get their second round draft pick on the field as soon as possible so he might start off with limited playing on both special teams and on offense with an eye towards becoming the starter by the middle of the season. Whatever backs remain ahead of him on the depth chart by the time the season rolls around shouldn\’t be too hard for him to pass. Somewhere right around 500 offensive snaps is not out of the question for the Michigan State product.
Round 3 – WR Markus Wheaton – I really don\’t expect Wheaton to wind up being in the running for the return job, nor do I expect that he will win a gunner job on special teams. While he learns the ins and outs of the Steelers offense, it would not be surprising to see him inactive for the first couple of games, depending of course on how the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart shakes out at the end of training camp. Should Wheaton wind up being fourth on the depth chart behind veteran wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, he will more than likely have to indeed play on a few special teams units. As the season progresses, I fully expect his role and playing time will increase. Baring any injuries to the wide receivers ahead of him, I can see Wheaton having a bigger role later on in the season and playing as many as 200 snaps on offense. With him, it all depends on how long it takes him to pass Cotchery. The main goal in 2013 is to have Wheaton ready to be a full-time player by 2014.
Round 4 – Shamarko Thomas – Thomas should be able to dress for all 16 games during his rookie season and contribute on special teams. As far as defensive snaps go, he will be hard pressed to see the field for 100 snaps, baring injuries of course. The Steelers want to cross train Thomas at both the strong and free safety positions and it will take time to get him acclimated to the NFL game. It\’s all about the long-term with Thomas, who should garner his share of special teams tackles as a rookie.
Round 4 – QB Landry Jones – Outside of mopping up games during the preseason, I expect that is all that we will see of Jones in his first two seasons. At least that is what I am hoping for, because if he sees the field, it likely means that something drastic has happened to Ben Roethlisberger. Let\’s not even go there. Clipboard city for Landry.
Round 5 – CB Terry Hawthorne – I suspect that Hawthorne will easily make the 53 man roster and be an instant contributor on special teams, perhaps even as a gunner, if he can\’t win the job as a return man, which I think he will get a shot at. His first target on the depth chart will be Curtis Brown, but even getting past him will garner less than 50 snaps worth of playing time in dime looks, which the Steelers haven\’t used a lot of the last few seasons. Hawthorne has some work to do in the lab of defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, so like Thomas, it is all about the long-term with him.
Round 6 – WR Justin Brown – Brown, in my opinion, really has his work cut out for him. At this point I consider him a long-shot to make the 53 man roster and that means he will have to show enough long-term upside in order to make the practice squad out of training camp. In other words, don\’t rush out and buy his jersey just yet.
Round 6 ILB Vince Williams – Williams will have to show first that he can cover in training camp and thus prove that he can be a three-down linebacker with the Steelers. Assuming he shows promise as a BUCK linebacker, he will then have to show that he can be a special teams demon in order to secure a spot on the 53 man roster. Assuming he does make the roster, it\’s all special teams for him during his rookie season. If he doesn\’t crack the 53, he could be a candidate for the practice squad, assuming he has long-term potential.
Round 7 – DE Nick Williams – Judging by everything that defensive line coach John Mitchell has told us about Williams, combined with my extensive breakdown of his play in two games, Williams is a long-term defensive end project that is more than likely already being penciled in for the practice squad. Williams will be making the transition from defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense to a defensive end in the Steelers 3-4 defense and this could take a little while to happen.